New Delhi: Indian Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar November 23 said that Indo-Pacific represents a strategic geography where most of us have convergences in our interests and aspirations and for “navigating our path together, there are numerous challenges that we must overcome.”
Addressing the Fourth edition of the Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue (IPRD-2022), he said “to my mind, these challenges could be viewed as, what I call, a trinity of Is which are Imperatives at Home, Influences from Outside and some Intrusive Paradigms.”
Elaborating on the trinity, he said the Imperatives at Home, not just for India, but for all include promoting mutual growth and prosperity, through an inclusive and innovative approach. Preserving a safe and secure environment across the Region. Protecting against forces trying to destabilise the Region.
The second of this Trinity is Influences from Outside which include reshaping of global competition, driven by great power rivalry and increasing multi-polarity, rebalancing of geo-strategic equations due to various factors such as challenges to the rules based order, increasing volatility in the global security environment, rising potency of non-state and state sponsored actors and reiteration of the threats posed by Climate Change through a multitude of natural disasters and rising sea levels, among others.
The third ‘I’ represents certain ‘Intrusive Paradigms’ that are all-pervasive, all-impacting and all-encompassing. These include, niche and disruptive technologies, offering a wide array of options, across military and civil domains. The cyber domain – which is both an enabler and a vulnerability and third, the cognitive domain and its growing weaponisation using imaginative tools, techniques as well as targets.
Admiral Hari Kumar said these challenges are not unique to India, or for that matter any other nation in the Region. “We also recognise that, these challenges cannot be overcome by one nation alone. Accordingly, the Indo-Pacific Region has witnessed formulation of numerous bilateral, multilateral and plurilateral mechanisms – most of which seek a safe, secure and stable Indo-Pacific,” he said adding that this common goal also brings possibilities to converge and collaborate. To this end, the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) provides an opportunity to synchronise, synergise and channelize collective efforts.
He said IPRD has chosen an apt theme – ‘Operationalising the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative’, and he was convinced that the collective wisdom in the Dialogue will bring about practical and result oriented options, to take this transformative initiative forward.
The Navy chief said there is need to address three predominant and interlinked sectors namely – security, economy and environment. Stating that the Indian Navy and the National Maritime Foundation was privileged to host some of the world’s leading experts and thinkers, to discuss an initiative that bears immense potential to “manage, conserve, sustain and secure the maritime domain”’ of the Indo-Pacific, he said traditionally, as a maritime Nation, India has always looked to the seas as a source of inspiration, as well as a driver of growth, prosperity, and cultural exchange. The maritime characteristic of India is fundamental to its
national identity. It was aptly underscored by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who considers the oceans as a “shared, common heritage” and “a key to our future.”
Speaking of the oceans, the Navy Chief said India has been blessed with a vantage position in the Indian Ocean, and has been an active contributor to overall growth and prosperity of the Region. He said the growing realities of the contemporary world – both in geo-political and economic terms – underscores the need for a confluence of Indian and Pacific Oceans.
“The Indo-Pacific, today, represents a strategic geography where most of us have found convergences in our interests and aspirations. However, in navigating our path together, there are numerous challenges that we must overcome,” he said.
Admiral Hari Kumar said IPOI represents the broadest framework conceptualised so far in the Indo-Pacific. It is guided by India’s vision of the Indo-Pacific – that is a “free, open, inclusive, peaceful and prosperous Region” and reflects India’s civilizational ethos of pluralism, co-existence, openness and dialogue. He said being a global open initiative, IPOI affords equal opportunity to every stakeholder and respects their sovereignty and freedom of choice. The IPOI is not aimed at creating new institutions, but rather, seeks to leverage existing mechanisms by drawing convergences and identifying areas of mutual interest.
Talking about the Security environment in general, and Maritime Security in particular, The Navy Chief said “while we cannot rule out the possibility of traditional inter-state conflict, there is an increased risk to the rules based order,…emanating from disputes of jurisdiction, undermining of UNCLOS, Piracy and Armed Robbery, Illegal Human Migration, Drugs and Arms Trafficking, and Illegal Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. Maritime terrorism and proliferation of advanced technologies have further complicated the security matrix. Inevitably, given its increased centrality in global affairs, the Region has witnessed increased presence of maritime security forces from a multitude of nations – regional as well as extra-regional.”
He said that it is amply clear that a prosperous Indo-Pacific hinges on a peaceful maritime domain. The Maritime Security Pillar of the IPOI seeks to manage this crucial element through cooperative engagement between friends and partners.
Indian Navy has been guided by the inclusive vision of SAGAR which literally means ‘Oceans’, and expands as ‘Security and Growth for All in the Region’, and is underpinned by the values of 5 ‘S’ – Samman (or Respect), Samvaad (or Dialogue), Shanti (or Peace), Samriddhi (or Prosperity) and notably, Sahyog (or Cooperation), he added.
Speaking of cooperation and engagements, he said “we have focussed our efforts on three fronts namely – to be the ‘Preferred Security Partner’, become the ‘First Responder’, and build on, what Admiral Karambir Singh termed as ‘Collective Maritime Competence’. In pursuit of being a ‘Preferred Security Partner’, the Indian Navy aims at enhancing the region’s maritime security quotient, through sustained forward presence and preparedness for all maritime challenges.
“Our persistent presence also enable us to be the ‘First Responder’ in various situations, including natural disasters, critical incidents and medical emergencies. As regards ‘Collective Maritime Competence’, we are progressing multiple initiatives such as enhancing Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) through the Information Fusion Centre-Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR), standardisation of HADR procedures under the umbrella of IONS, training and hydrographic assistance, to name a few,” Admiral Hari Kumar said.
The Navy Chief said the IPOI, with its flexible framework, and result oriented approach holds immense potential for synchronising and synergising our efforts towards a peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific. He concluded his address with “ I’m convinced that the Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue provides an ideal platform to apply our collective intellect to harness various pillars of the IPOI and develop practical solutions, which can further feed into our respective policies and initiatives.”